Mike’s Top Ten of 1966

1966, symbolically, feels like that moment when all the water pulls away from the shore just before the tidal wave comes crashing down. It’s a matter of time before the industry changes completely and the old way is totally gone. And you can see it in the films. Whenever there’s a movie shot on studio sound stages in one of the old-school genres, it just feels passé. That doesn’t mean they’re not good, it just means that they feel outdated.

There’s definitely a move to a less rigid style of filmmaking, and way more location filming. One of the top ten films mixes scenes set on sound stages with scenes in an actual football stadium, and it’s just jarring. You can see the two different eras side by side. But that’s really what the year is about for me. The calm before the storm. Other than that, it’s a decent year, but doesn’t feel overly special overall. There are a couple of all-time films, but as a whole it’s pretty mix and match.

Another thing worth mentioning is that this is the year where the MPAA ratings system was created. Rather than getting a seal of approval, films were rated like they are now so people had an idea of what age rage they were intended for.

Mike’s Top Ten of 1966


A Big Hand for the Little Lady


The Fortune Cookie

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

A Man for All Seasons


The Professionals

Tokyo Drifter

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

  • Honorable Mention to: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

11-20: Andrei Rublev, Batman, The Battle of Algiers, Born Free, Fantastic Voyage, Gambit, How to Steal a Million, Mister Buddwing, The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming, The Sand Pebbles, Torn Curtain

Tier two: Arabesque, Au Hasard Balthazar, The Blue Max, The Chase, Funeral in Berlin, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Georgy Girl, Grand Prix, Harper, Hawaii, It Happened Here, A Man and a Woman, Mister Buddwing, Murderer’s Row, One Million Years B.C., The Oscar, Seconds, The Silencers, This Property Is Condemned, Walk Don’t Run

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1. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

“Two hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money. We’re gonna have to earn it.”

How perfect is this movie? My absolute favorite western of all time, and one of my favorite films of all time. Top 20 for me, and I bet if I tried to figure it out, it would be top 15. I love this movie so much.

This and Once Upon a Time in the West are the greatest of the Leone westerns and they’re just absolute masterpieces through and through. This one in particular is so well structured and plotted. Even at three hours long it doesn’t drag at all and keeps you engaged.

Ennio Morricone composed what might be the greatest single film score of all time with this one (with perhaps the single most iconic theme song ever written), Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef are incredible, and all around, this is a movie that everyone loves. I don’t know what to tell you. It’s just that good.

2. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

“I swear, if you existed, I’d divorce you.”

One of the greatest pieces of acting in film history. That’s what happens when you take a Pulitzer Prize-winning play and give it to two of the best actors out there. Plus you get the added bonus of having the film be about a married couple and the actors in it being married themselves.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton play a married academic couple who come from a faculty party and are planning to entertain a younger professor and his wife at their own home. Through the course of the evening, a lot of bitter resentments and truths come out, and it’s one of those movies you can’t take your eyes off of. George Segal and Sandy Dennis play the younger couple. Taylor and Dennis won Oscars, and all four were worthy of winning. They’re the only credited cast, and there are only like two or three other people in the movie. It’s just these four. And it’s great.

This movie was directed by Mike Nichols, which often gets overlooked. This was his first film, which is pretty nuts. It’s also the only film in the history of the Oscars to be nominated in every category in which it was eligible. It’s one of those all-time classics, and is up there with Streetcar as the best of the ‘theatrical’ dramas.

3. The Fortune Cookie

“You can fool all of the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time!”

The last great Billy Wilder film. And it’s still a hidden gem for people. Almost nobody knows about this. And look — Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. I think this was the first time they worked together!

Lemmon plays an NFL cameraman who gets run over by the equivalent of Jim Brown. It’s a violent collision that looks absolutely horrible. Lemmon is immediately taken to the hospital for tests. He says he’s fine and that it was just an accident, but before anyone important can hear him, his shyster, ambulance-chasing lawyer brother Matthau shows up, seeing dollar signs in his eyes. He tells Lemmon he needs to fake injury. He has a longstanding injury from childhood and Matthau wants him to pretend like he got it from the collision, so the insurance company is forced to pay a huge settlement. Lemmon begrudgingly goes along with it (to increasingly comic results), though he starts to have second thoughts when he realizes the psychological toll it’s taking on the player, who has huge guilt for injuring him and hasn’t been able to play. Then there’s the insurance company, who feels like it’s a scam and tries to catch Lemmon in a lie, so they bug his apartment and try to record him proving he isn’t injured, which leads to more hilarity.

The film is hysterical. The highlight (aside from being written and directed by Billy Wilder and starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau) is Matthau’s performance. Everyone is playing it like it’s a comedy, but Matthau is in an entirely different movie. The first time you see him, he’s like he’s in some noir with Humphrey Bogart, and he plays it so straight that it’s hilarious. He won an Oscar for it, he’s that good. Truly, one of my favorite Wilder movies, and absolutely no one remembers this.

Also, since this will be the last Billy Wilder movie to make the top ten, let’s refresh the count. For his career, to this point, he has directed 20 movies. 14 of them (!) have been top ten films. 3 have been in 11-20, 2 have been in tier two and only 1 of them didn’t make the list at all. He has five movies remaining left in his career, and I’ll just tell you now — four of them will be in tier two, and one won’t be on its year’s list. So, of 25 movies, only 2 didn’t make my list and more than half of them were top tens! That’s so nuts. The man was a genius and is my favorite filmmaker of all time. And I think the numbers bear that out.

4. A Man for All Seasons

” I am commanded by the King to be brief, and since I am the King’s obedient subject, brief I will be. I die his Majesty’s good servant but God’s first.”

This is the peak of the 60s British historical dramas. It won Best Picture, it’s generally recognized as the best and most beloved of the bunch. It’s incredible.

The film is about Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII. Henry wants a divorce from his wife and comes to More, asking for one. More has to struggle with whether or not he thinks that’s just in the eyes of God. He ultimately has to choose between his king and his god. Then when he refuses the divorce and Henry imprisons him and says he’ll have him killed if he doesn’t change his mind, More stands firm. The climax of the movie is a show trial with one of the greatest monologues of all time.

Paul Scofield plays More, and he won a well-deserved Oscar for the performance. Robert Shaw plays Henry, and he was nominated as well. Wendy Hiller plays More’s wife, and there’s a young John Hurt in there as well as a cameo from Orson Welles. Fred Zinnemann directed it to boot. It’s just a great, great movie. One of the best written and best acted films you’ll ever see.

5. The Professionals

“You bastard.”
“Yes, Sir. In my case an accident of birth. But you, Sir, you’re a self-made man.”

What a great western. When you have Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, Lee Marvin and Woody Strode as your main characters, it’s not a hard sell.

Ralph Bellamy plays a rich guy who hires the four men to rescue his kidnapped wife from a Mexican bandit. Lancaster’s the explosives expert, Ryan’s the horse wrangler, Marvin is the weapons guy and Strode is the scout. Claudia Cardinale plays the wife, and Jack Palance is the bandit. Aww, yeah. Richard Brooks directed the movie and got an Oscar nomination for his effort.

It’s just a fun time, and a movie that so perfectly fits into its era (genre-wise) in ways I can’t get into without spoiling the movie. If you hate westerns, I can’t really make a compelling argument for you to see this. If you love westerns, or at least don’t mind watching one — Burt Lancaster, Lee Marin, Woody Strode, Robert Ryan, Claudia Cardinale, Jack Palance and Ralph Bellamy, directed by Richard Brooks. What more do you actually need?

6. Tokyo Drifter

I fucking love this movie. It’s such an oddity. Seijun Suzuki was a filmmaker with a very distinct style. He made movies that were just cool. Which increasingly became an annoyance to Nikkatsu, the film studio that employed him. Over time, his films got more surreal, culminating in this film and Branded to Kill the year after this, and the studio got so fed up (because the crazier his films got, the more restrictions they placed on him, and the more he fought against them) that they fired him. He eventually sued them for wrongful termination and won, leading to a blacklisting. It’s a crazy story. The funny thing is, his yakuza films are better remembered than just about anything else put out during that time.

This film is about a former Yakuza hitman who wants out of that life, and is then targeted for assassination by both a rival gang and his former gang. The plot doesn’t really matter. It’s the look of the film, the style, the fact that the main character sings his own theme song! The action sequences here are amazing. It’s just a cool movie.

7. Blowup

“Nothing like a little disaster for sorting things out.”

Michelangelo Antonioni’s masterpiece. Generally considered one of the greatest films ever made, and it’s just a top notch thriller. It’s a European version of those 70s American paranoia films like The Conversation.

The film is a day in the life of a British fashion photographer. It starts off pretty normal until he ends up in the park, taking pictures of two lovers (one of whom is Vanessa Redgrave). She angrily asks for the photos back and he refuses. Later on, he blows up the photographs, only to see something hidden very suspicious. And the rest of the film is about him obsessively trying to piece together the mystery of the photos.

It’s great. It’s really a wonderful film. One of those movies every movie buff gets to eventually because it’s just so great.

8. Alfie

“I don’t want no bird’s respect – I wouldn’t know what to do with it.”

This movie was pretty revolutionary at the time. It dealt with subject matter that had theretofore never been dealt with on film. It’s misogynistic as hell and hasn’t really held up, but it’s still a good movie. Plus, your main character talking to the audience for half the movie — you don’t have Ferris Bueller without this.

Alfie is a limo driver who sleeps with lots of women. He constantly cheats on his girlfriend and seems to revel in treating women like shit. However, after a visit to the doctor, he learns he has tuberculosis and subsequently has a nervous breakdown. And the film is ultimately him starting to learn the consequences of his ways. It’s a really terrific performance by Caine and has great supporting performances by the women in his life: Shelley Winters, Millicent Martin, Vivien Merchant. And it’s got a supporting turn from Denholm Elliott, who shows up near the end for a pretty fucked up scene. This is one of those movies that starts off light and fun but decidedly does not end that way.

It’s dated, but it’s still good. It also launched Michael Caine into superstardom. It’s got a great title song written by Burt Bacharach (what 60s movie doesn’t?) and has a great soundtrack. It’s hard to discuss the 60s without this movie being mentioned.

9. A Big Hand for the Little Lady

“Gentleman all. All such gallant gentlemen.”
“Yeah, we’re gallant on Sunday. This is Friday, and we’re playing poker. Now, you wanna play with us, you ante up $500.”

I love the idea of this movie. It’s a western that really only takes place in the west. It’s almost a play. It’s actually based on a teleplay, as so many great 60s movies are.

It’s about a poker game with a town’s five richest men. They play this game every year, and it’s very contentious. The players don’t let anything get in the way of the game. We see them leaving weddings and walking out of work to play. Meanwhile, a family of homesteaders are passing through to move to their new home. They get stuck in town temporarily as their wagon breaks. The family’s patriarch is a recovering gambling addict, who ends up staking his entire family’s life savings in the game. If he loses, they don’t have any money to pay for the house they’re going to. The whole thing builds to one big hand. Only, all the excitement causes the patriarch to collapse. And so, his hand ends up being played out by his wife, who knows nothing about poker and needs to essentially play for her family’s future. It’s amazing. It’s so good.

It stars Joanne Woodward as the wife, Henry Fonda as the patriarch of the family, Charles Bickford, Jason Robards, Kevin McCarthy, John Qualen and Robert Middleton as the other players in the game, and Burgess Meredith as the town doctor.

I love this movie. It’s one of those movies that I’ll watch whenever it’s on TCM or something because it’s so watchable. A real hidden gem that you should see.

10. Penelope

“Well, that’s it. Suspect: young, white female, five foot three, red hair, yellow suit. Did I forget anything?”
“Yeah, when viewed from behind, she has a very attractive wiggle.”

I’m surprised this ended up on the top ten, but I’m also kind of glad, because so rarely do I get a spot like this to talk up something that’s just so completely forgotten.

This is an incredibly 60s film starring Natalie Wood as a kleptomaniac housewife who is bored, so she decides to rob her husband’s bank. She confesses all of this to her (increasingly overwhelmed) psychiatrist, and the repercussions of the robbery play out in increasingly hilarious and screwball ways. Ian Bannen plays her husband, Peter Falk plays the cop investigating the bank robbery, Lila Kedrova and Lou Jacobi play con artists who figure out that it was Wood who robbed the bank, and Dick Shawn (who would play L.S.D. in The Producers after this) plays the psychiatrist.

I thought this was hilarious. I really liked this movie a lot. I don’t think it was well-received at the time at all, but what does that matter? I loved it. I think it’s hilarious, and I think it should at least be seen by people who can either corroborate my opinion and firmly classify this as a hidden gem or tell me I’m crazy and we can just move along like normal.

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Honorable Mention: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

This is my favorite of all the Christmas specials. It’s perfect. I can (along with most people, I’m sure) pretty much quote the whole thing from start to finish. It captures everything about the Dr. Seuss book in such a way that nothing they make from here on out could ever come close to replicating. This is so good I’d legitimately put this as high as #2 on this list were I to consider it as a feature along with the other films.

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Andrei Rublev — Andrei Tarkovsky’s second film. (He’s gonna be a mainstay here for almost all his films… until they get too long and too indulgent for me near the end of his career.) Most people consider this his masterpiece. I’m undecided. Either way, it’s wonderful. It’s a three-and-a-half hour historical epic about the Russian painter. It’s gorgeously shot, and just one of the greatest films ever made. Everyone owes it to themselves to see Tarkovsky. This is one of those movies, I wouldn’t be surprised if it hit the top ten with another watch.


The Battle of Algiers — What if I also just posted the Batman theme here? This movie is amazing. Gillo Pontecorvo was nominated for Best Director for this. Heavily influenced by Rossellini, it’s a docu-drama about the Algerian War. It’s incredible. The less I say about this, the better. The film speaks for itself. All self-respecting film buffs must see it. One of the greatest films ever made.

Born Free — Best known for its theme song. I mean its theme song. One of those famous stories that’s been copied to death in films and now has basically become a viral sensation whenever something similar happens. It’s about a couple in Africa who take in three orphaned lion cubs. They raise them until they get too big for their property, they start getting sent off to zoos. Except the youngest, Elsa, who the couple keeps. They have her there until it becomes necessary to either send her to a zoo or get her to reintegrate into the wild. It’s great. Everyone who watches it is gonna enjoy it because it’s just one of those movies that’s entertaining to everyone.

Fantastic Voyage — One of the classic sci fi movies. I saw this in school (for whatever reason), and I feel like this is one of those stories everyone manages to see in some form even without seeing the movie. Hell, the Magic School Bus did a version of this story. A scientist who perfected shrinking technology has been left with a dangerous blood clot. A team of scientists is shrunk down to go inside the professor’s body to remove the clot before he dies. It’s awesome. The cast is also stacked too. I never realized that part (probably because this was something I saw when I was too young to notice character actors). Stars Raquel Welch, Stephen Boyd, Edmond O’Brien, Donald Pleasance, Arthur O’Connell and Arthur Kennedy. And directed by Richard Fleischer, who has one of the more underrated great directorial careers out there. A true classic, this one.

Gambit — A heist movie with Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine. The tagline for this movie was “Go Ahead: Tell the End (It’s Too Hilarious to Keep Secret) But Please Don’t Tell the Beginning!” It’s accurate. Because the beginning is what hooked me into this movie. It’s great. All you need to know is that Michael Caine has planned the perfect heist and he enlists Shirley MacLaine to help him in it. And, as with all heist movies, things don’t always go according to plan. It’s awesome. A lot of fun. A somewhat hidden gem.

How to Steal a Million — I can sell anyone on this real easily: Audrey Hepburn, Peter O’Toole, William Wyler, heist comedy. If you’re not automatically in, how about Eli Wallach, Hugh Griffith and Charles Boyer? Hepburn plays the daughter of an art forger who has to steal a statue from a museum in order to keep his forgeries from being discovered. She enlists the help of O’Toole, a thief. So it’s a romantic comedy where the romance happens during the planning and execution of a heist? HOW ARE YOU NOT ALREADY WATCHING THIS MOVIE???

The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming — Great comedy. This is the comedic Red Dawn almost 20 years before Red Dawn. In a sleepy Martha’s Vineyard kind of town, a Russian submarine runs aground. The Russian sailors simply want to go ashore and get supplies to fix their sub. The townsfolk begin to find out, and panic sets in, leading to already high tensions to reach a point where actual World War III could start if armed conflict breaks out. Directed by Norman Jewison and with a cast that includes Alan Arkin (Oscar-nominated for his role in which he speaks no English), Carl Reiner, Eva Marie Saint, Jonathan Winters and Theodore Bikel, this was nominated for Best Picture. It’s funny. It still mostly holds up.

The Sand Pebbles — A big epic about China. Movies about China typically don’t end up remembered among the real classics, for whatever reason. This was a Best Picture nominee this year, and earned Steve McQueen his only Oscar nomination (and for those keeping track, that’s all five Best Actor and Best Picture nominees we’ve talked about thus far). He plays an engineer on a boat in war-torn China. There’s a lot of subplots, namely his aversion to most of the men and preference for actually working on the machine, which the men hire “coolies” to do, and his friendship with one of the men (an Oscar-nominated Mako). There’s also a subplot with Richard Attenborough as one of the men on the boat who falls in love with a Chinese woman, which is generally seen as a no-no. And there’s the constant threat of violence, as the locals want no part of foreigners being around, especially ones on a boat with guns. All of this builds to a pretty explosive finale. It’s a three-hour epic that’s really solid, with great performances, and directed by a steady hand in Robert Wise. What’s not to like?

Torn Curtain — Hitchcock. I don’t think it’s possible for him not to have his movie end up somewhere on a top ten list. He just made great movies. This is a Cold War spy movie starring Paul Newman and Julie Andrews. He’s a scientist who defects to East Germany. Though we find out it’s all just a cover for his actual mission, to get a secret formula out of there and back to the U.S. It’s really good. If I took Hitchcock as his own top ten list, and Vertigo and Rear Window and North by Northwest were all in the top ten, and stuff like The Birds and The Man Who Knew Too Much and Lifeboat were all the 11-20, this would be in tier two. This is a really solid Hitchcock movie that I classify under his “hidden gems” section — the really good movies that no one really knows about because he’s got so many great movies.

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Tier two:

  1. Arabesque
  2. Au Hasard Balthazar
  3. The Blue Max
  4. The Chase
  5. Funeral in Berlin
  6. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
  7. Georgy Girl
  8. Grand Prix
  9. Harper
  10. Hawaii
  11. It Happened Here
  12. A Man and a Woman
  13. Mister Buddwing
  14. Murderers’ Row
  15. One Million Years B.C.
  16. The Oscar
  17. Seconds
  18. The Silencers
  19. This Property Is Condemned
  20. Walk, Don’t Run

It Happened Here is an alternate history film. It’s about a UK that has been invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany. The film shows what life is like under this rule. It’s fascinating. It’s like 95 minutes and extremely low budget, but it’s a really interesting movie to watch and one of those gems that not enough people go back to. I think this is one of the most unique films made from this era and really deserves more of an audience. Audacious filmmaking begets creativity, and I think this should be seen by more film fans. The story of how this got made is just as fascinating as the film itself. Stanley Kubrick gave them leftover Dr. Strangelove stock because he was so fascinated by the idea of the project. The guys who made it were history and military buffs who worked on it for eight years. All their actors were volunteers, and the DP got a career from this, going on to shoot The Empire Strikes Back and Rocky Horror. People coming here are likely looking for two very specific kinds of movies — 1) the cool stuff that I like and have seen that you might not know about or haven’t thought to watch just yet, and 2) the cool stuff that almost nobody knows about that you can see and then make all your friends watch and look cool for suggesting this great little movie. This is most assuredly the latter.

Funeral in Berlin is the second of the Harry Palmer films with Michael Caine, after The Ipcress File. It’s about Palmer going into Berlin to pick up a Communist defector. But when he gets there, things turn out to be… way more complicated than intended. It’s fun. I prefer The Ipcress File, but this is really good too. The Palmer trilogy is solid all around. Harper is another “character” series, about a private detective played by Paul Newman. He played Harper in two films (the second one being The Drowning Pool almost a decade after this). He’s a P.I. hired by Lauren Bacall to find her kidnapped husband. Very much a mystery kind of movie. Newman goes around, following leads, meeting all sorts of characters. It’s fun. Shelley Winters is in it, Robert Wagner, Strother Martin as a phony preacher. Very 60s, and definitely a good time.

Add two more titles to that list, because Murderers’ Row and The Silencers are Dean Martin’s foray into the character spy franchise. They’re is much more swinging 60s films, based on the Matt Helm novels, which are beyond forgotten today. They’re basically campy, American versions of James Bond. Martin plays a spy who is constantly drinking (in one of the movies, his breakfast is a giant glass of gin with a literal drop of orange juice in it) and fucking hot women, all under the guise of his cover, a fashion photographer. Somehow everyone knows he’s a spy but also he gets to be a preeminent photographer who gets to fuck his models. If Funeral in Berlin is serious, and Harper is more laid back and fun, these movies straight parody compared to those two. The whole thing is tongue-in-cheek and nothing is to be taken seriously. All the gadgets are outlandish and designed to just be crazy and fun. The plots don’t matter at all. These two, of the four (that’s right, they made four of these), are the only ‘good’ ones. The others just get completely incoherent and lazy, and Martin seems to be actually drunk for them. At least here he looks like he’s been drinking, but can still go through the motions of a plot. The Silencers was the first one, and after that was a hit, they rushed the second one into production, putting Ann-Margret and Karl Malden into the mix. Like I said, the plots don’t matter. It’s all about watching Martin drink, have sex with women and nominally save the world.

The Chase is an Arthur Penn movie with Marlon Brando, Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Robert Duvall and Angie Dickinson. Do I need to give you more or are you in already? Redford plays a guy who escapes from prison and Brando is the sheriff assigned to bring him back. The film is about how his escape affects the residents of a small town, who all know him. It’s a nice boiling pot of a movie with great people involved. Walk, Don’t Run is Cary Grant’s last film. That’s generally how it’s known. What it actually is, is a remake of The More the Merrier, with Jean Arthur and Charles Coburn and Joel McCrea. Though it takes place in Tokyo during the time of the 1966 Olympics. Cary Grant is a rich businessman in town but unable to get an apartment because of the housing shortage. So he takes a room in Samantha Eggar’s apartment, and then Jim Hutton is one of the Olympians, etc etc. Same plot as the original. Not as good, but it’s fine. And it’s Cary Grant’s last movie, which is of note. Plus, he’s finally not playing the romantic lead. Here, he’s matchmaker. Oh, also, this is the final film of Charles Walters as well. So it’s notable for several reasons.

Au Hasard Balthazar is a Robert Bresson film about a donkey. That’s the film. It’s about a donkey who is raised on a farm with a little girl, but then he gets sold, so we watch the girl’s life and the donkey’s life over all the years from that point. Not quite Boyhood and not quite War Horse. Ass…Hood? It’s really emotional, and generally considered one of the greatest films ever made. It’s fantastic. One Million Years B.C. is generally known for its poster of a scantily-clad Raquel Welch. The plot is about a primitive tribe living in ancient times. In this version of ancient times, humans live with dinosaurs. There’s no dialogue here, because the humans can’t speak yet. So they’re mostly grunting and gesturing. It’s… amusing. Plus Ray Harryhausen did all the special effects. So that and the scantily-clad models playing cave-dwellers are the only real reasons to check this out. (They are, however, good reasons, so there’s that.)

Grand Prix is a Formula One racing movie shot in 70mm that was originally shown in Cinerama. The racing cinematography is incredible here. This and Le Mans are the two premier racing films. This one’s about four different drivers and how their season goes. James Garner and Yves Montand are the two most important of the drivers, and the film also has Eva Marie Saint and Toshiro Mifune. John Frankenheimer directs, and as I said — the racing scenes are the draw of this one. Watch this one for the experience. Watch it on a big screen with great speakers. You won’t be disappointed. Speaking of racing films, A Man and a Woman is a romance, but one of the characters is a race car driver. It’s about two widowers who meet and begin a romance. It’s beautifully shot and one of the great romance films of all time. Highly recommended.

Mister Buddwing is an interesting movie. It could only have been made in the 60s. Shot in black-and-white, but it’s almost as if it were meant to be in color. James Garner plays a guy who wakes up on a park bench with no idea who he is. He has no wallet, can’t remember a damn thing, and all he has is a piece of paper with a phone number on it. He goes around, following leads, trying to figure out who he is. I’m not sure why this movie was made, but it’s good. It’s unique as compared to the other stuff of the era, and takes a flashy (but simple) premise and starts to add depth as things progress. You know what this reminds me of? A movie we’re gonna get into in 1968 — The Swimmer, with Burt Lancaster. This would make an interesting double feature with that. Movies that peel back their layers by the end. The Swimmer, I think, has a bit of a cult following now. I don’t think anybody talks about this one anymore.

The Oscar is, I think, known as one of the campiest movies ever made. One of those movies that’s not supposed to be as bad as it is, but history has done quite the number on it. So everything is just so dated and over the top that the only way to watch it now is as an accidental comedy. It’s such a bloated mess, and it’s great. Because, in a way, it’s the kind of bloated mess that the film was trying to — well, not lampoon. But there’s an interesting irony to the whole thing. The film is about Stephen Boyd as an actor ruthlessly trying to win an Oscar at any cost. The film begins at the ceremony, flashing back to how he got there, and ending with the award being given. It’s part-All About Eve, part-The Bad and the Beautiful, but not actually good. There are famous actors everywhere in this, in roles and in cameos. They include: Milton Berle, Eleanor Parker, Joseph Cotten, Jill St. John, Elke Sommer, Tony Bennett, Edie Adams, Ernest Borgnine, Ed Begley, Walter Brennan, Broderick Crawford, James Dunn, Peter Lawford, Edith Head, Bob Hope, Hedda Hopper, Merle Oberon and Frank Sinatra. You need to go into this knowing that it’s not meant to be funny but is funny and you’ll get the most out of it.

Seconds is a John Frankenheimer film (who, by the way, is on a run that includes Birdman of Alcatraz, The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days in May, The Train, Grand Prix and this. All of those movies, by the way, come in pairs of two, each being released the same year, resulting in exactly zero Best Director nominations). It’s a sci fi cult classic. It’s about an unhappy man who gets approached by a mysterious company who offers him a second chance at life. You’ve seen this setup before. The deal is, he goes to a facility, and there, his death is faked, he is then given a special kind of surgery that transports his being into the body of a younger man. So he’s still him, with all his memories, but as far as everyone else is concerned, he’s this other guy, with a real job and a real existence. So he goes in and wakes up as Rock Hudson, a guy with a different job and a different life as his. He then settles into his new life, meeting other people who have gone through a similar transformation. Though things start to not work out, and he begins to feel uneasy with his current status. That’s when things get interesting. It’s — a very 60s movie. It could have been made in any decade and it would have reflected the ideals and styles of that decade. As it is, it’s very good, very underrated, and very fascinating. And it has a killer ending. It’s the kind of movie you ultimately want more from. You want them to spend way more time into all the things they introduce throughout it. That’s my kind of movie.

Georgy Girl is a very 60s film. And British. Swinging London in full force. It stars Lynn Redgrave as a very naive, bubbly girl who lives on her own wavelength. She’s a schoolteacher (and a virgin) who seems disinterested in men. And the film is about her going about, living her life. James Mason is a friend of her father’s who develops an attraction toward her, and she’s living with a roommate who parties a lot and has a lot of sex. Mostly it’s a character piece about this girl. It’s fun. And the titular theme song is great. Arabesque is a fun thriller that’s so 60s. It’s like if you tried to make The Da Vinci Code in the 60s. Overly complicated spy plot that’s overtaken now by just how dated the whole thing is. I love these movies. Gregory Peck is the professor and lead, Sophia Loren is the hot woman that drives the plot, there’s some murder plot involved, Peck is an expert in hieroglyphics — the plot really doesn’t matter, but it’s fun. That’s all you need to know.

The Blue Max is a film about a World War I German fighter pilot. Which I find fascinating. They made a two-and-a-half hour movie about a guy trying to murder Americans. George Peppard plays the pilot, who is trying to earn the flying medal given to a pilot with 20 confirmed kills in the air. And he’s a ruthless guy who is completely disliked by all the other pilots. Which is even more interesting. Two-and-a-half hours, about a German trying to murder Americans, and he’s unlikable. Amazing that this got made. But still, a good film. Worth watching.  This Property Is Condemned is Sydney Pollack’s second film, starring Mary Badham (aka Scout) recounting the story of her sister, Natalie Wood, who meets and falls in love with Robert Redford. They’re a young couple in love trying to escape the town where she lives. It’s a nice little movie. Charles Bronson is also in it. It’s solid. Also based on a Tennessee Williams play and co-written by Francis Ford Coppola.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is one of the more memorable film titles out there. It’s a musical set in Ancient Rome. Starring Zero Mostel. How often do you hear that combination? It also features Buster Keaton in his final film role. Mostel plays a slave who is just a complete cheat and a con artist. He makes a deal that he will get his master’s son married to the woman he wants in exchange for his freedom. So he’s gotta concoct a plan to make this happen. And naturally things go comically wrong at every turn. It’s fun. Hawaii is a George Roy Hill-directed epic about a missionary trying to bring religion to the native Polynesians on the Hawaiian islands. Max von Sydow is the missionary, Julie Andrews is his wife, and Jocelyne La Garde, a non-actor, plays the queen of Hawaii. The film looks great and is interesting enough. It’s no forgotten masterpiece, but is a fascinating, if dated, movie. Also has Richard Harris and Gene Hackman in it too, which is nice.

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One response

  1. lacourseauxetoiles

    Why do you so often refuse to include foreign-language films in your top 10s? Andrei Rublev and The Battle of Algiers are usually held up as some of the greatest films of all time, but like almost all other foreign-language films, they don’t even make your top 10, despite you saying that they are some of the greatest films of all time.

    April 17, 2018 at 12:16 am

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